Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > News

Separated Kids In Migrant Detention Centers Aren’t Allowed To Hug Their Siblings & Other Rules That Have Activists Devastated

Although the Trump Administration has put an end to the separation of families at the border and a judge has put a deadline on the reunification of children with their families, it does not mean that the deadlines have been met or that the conditions inside the detention centers are anything close to humane.

Although the deadline for all children to be united with their families is rapidly approaching, more than 2,800 children are still separated from their parents in detention centers. While some of these detention centers are scenic and (aside from the fact that children are being forced to stay there against their will) even relatively nice. But if you’re not one of the lucky ones that get sent to, say, a youth shelter in Yonkers, New York with picnic tables and a pool, the conditions are reportedly appalling. If the detention center doesn’t look like a summer camp, it’s a converted motel next to a gas station or something like a warehouse full of cages. But, they all have one thing in common, the New York Times reported —a strict set of rules that basically serves to make conditions unbearable for children.

“Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames,” the article reads. Children are forced to follow a strict schedule – with lights out by 9 p.m. and wake-up when the sun rises at 6:30 am when the staff made loud banging noises to make sure everyone was up. But that’s not even the worst of it.

Children are told they’re not allowed to touch each other. They’re not even allowed to hug their brothers or sisters. After being separated from their families and forced to spend their days under the care of indifferent, overworked detention center staff, the one thing that they deserve is human contact. But they’re not allowed to have it, and they heartbreakingly often resort to hugging themselves An employee at a Texas detention facility told the New York Times that when the kids are sad “you’ll see them sit on the floor and just kind of wrap their arms around themselves.”

Additionally, the children are refused contact with members of their family —  no writing in the dorm rooms and no mail are both rules as well. Leticia, a girl from Guatemala, writes letters to her mother in secret and and keeps a stack of them safe in a folder, according to The Times.

Children are not allowed to run or yell, and were scared into being well-behaved under the threat of punishment. Diego, a boy from Brazil, told the Times about what happened to a Guatemalan boy named Adonias who was acting out. “They applied injections because he was very agitated,” he says, “He would destroy things,” and in the middle of class someone Diego called “the doctor” injected Adonias with sedatives so “he would fall asleep.”

In addition to the lack of basic comforts of a home or a family, the kids are being forced to work for the little comforts that they do have. If they have the luxury of a bed, they have to make the bed exactly as the instructions on the wall say. When they have the opportunity to use the restrooms (because of the required staff-to-detainee ratio of 1-to-8, when one kid has to go to the bathroom, seven other kids who need to go to have to be found, and then they all walk there together), they have to clean them too. “You had to clean the bathroom,” says Diego, “I scrubbed the bathroom. We had to remove the trash bag full of dirty toilet paper. Everyone had to do it.”

Although activists are devastated by the conditions that these children are forced to endure right now, there is a glimmer of hope in the future as the deadline for family reunification approaches (July 27). Soon these children will be free from the lack of human touch, love, and access to the carefree childhood that all children deserve.

Makena is the Decor Section Editor, and former Style Section Editor and Editorial Intern at Her Campus. She is a senior at Marist College majoring in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Graphic Design. One day she hopes to put her writing skills to work at a magazine or women's publication.  Follow her on Instagram @makenagera and Twitter @makena_gera.